South Dakota State Senator Neal Tapio created quite the scene at the capitol building in Pierre, when after awkwardly agreeing to be photographed with an interfaith gathering, he turned on them, launching into one of his familiar rants attacking Islam and condemning the gathering as a “political movement.”
Think Progress Tapio contended that he had been called “an extremist, a racist, an Islamaphobe and a hater” for saying that the “war on terror” was about people that consider themselves Muslim and who believe that you should be killed for leaving Islam. “If you don’t have the freedom to leave a religion, is there a freedom of religion? …That’s the question we have to asks ourselves as a state.”
When someone contradicted that claim, Tapio insisted, “When 14 Islamic countries kill you for leaving Islam, don’t you think we would want to keep those people out?” “I want you to go home and I want you to look into what laws of apostasy and laws of blasphemy are,” he said. “…There are 14 countries in the world that will put you to death for what you believe, or what you say. Those values are antithetical to the values that are found in our Constitution.”
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As he was leaving, Tapio stopped to answer questions from reporters. He called Interfaith Day “a political event.” He said, “Last year, I brought a resolution to thank President Trump for his fight against radical Islamic terrorism and [Interfaith Day organizers] were the opposition.
These are political people. … They oppose the naming of it as radical Islamic terrorism because they don’t want to correlate Islam with terrorism. … If we’re fighting and sending troops to die … we have to identify who we’re fighting, doesn’t that make sense?”
During the interfaith gathering, Tapio also held a concurrent ceremony in the capitol to honor a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was critically wounded, as well as the parents of a soldier killed in Iraq. It was after that ceremony that he encountered the interfaith group posing for their photo and the awkward incident took place.
Tapio had actually lambasted the event one day earlier, in a lengthy press release. In it, he accused the interfaith group of having “contempt for those Americans concerned about an endless war on terror,” reiterating his belief that Muslims predominantly believe people should be killed for leaving Islam.
“Patriotic Americans simply believe it is our responsibility to identify the real source of terror and to keep that hateful and deadly ideology out of the United States, out of South Dakota and out of our local communities,” he wrote.
“While cultural messages of inclusiveness are important, I think it’s far more important that we respect the sacrifice and tremendous grief of South Dakota’s military families and those who have suffered so deeply in this ongoing war against Islamic terror, both at home and abroad.”
He went on to describe Islam as “a hateful and deadly ideology.” Tapio said, “There were 50 Somali people in Minnesota who joined ISIS, an organization that chops the heads off of men. Why do you think they join? They weren’t refugees, they were children of refugees.”
Tapio has made a habit out of commenting publicly about his well-founded fears regarding Islam. Last May, for example, he introduced prominent anti-Islam expert David Horowitz at a GOP Freedom Rally using the very same attacks on Islam that he rolled out on Wednesday.